Somali Parliamentary Committee Introduces Harmful “Sexual Intercourse Bill”

On Saturday, August 8th, the Somali parliament convened to discuss the introduction of the “Sexual Intercourse Bill”. This particular bill is being introduced in order to replace the existing Sexual Offences Bill, which was unanimously adopted by the Council of Ministers in Somalia on 30th May 2018. The Sexual Offences Bill was hailed to be a solid work of legislation and notably praised by President Judge Vagn Joensen of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as being “the most comprehensive Bill on sexual crimes… I have seen anywhere.” Although a significant milestone, the law wasn’t approved in parliament.

The new proposed “Sexual Intercourse Bill” contains articles and language that is considered to be deeply flawed and hurtful to the rights of women and children in Somalia. For example, the bill defines sexual intercourse/penetration (galmo) as “a sexual act between two people voluntarily or by force, which is permitted or prohibited by Islamic law” whereas the most common global definition of heterosexual intercourse/penetration is an act involving penetration of the vagina by the penis. Rape (kufsi) is defined in the bill as “a sexual act that is not allowed by Shari’a or the law where one of the two parties is being coerced” whereas it is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

An unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against a person’s will or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent because of mental illness, mental deficiency, intoxication, unconsciousness, or deception.

Most outrage towards this bill stems from Article 26 which discusses child marriages (guurka da’yarta, caruur). This article states that child marriages would be allowed as long as it is performed according to the Sharia Law and that intercourse with a child is permissible until they have “the ability to engage in sexual intercourse”. This article is in direct violation of Article 28(5) of the Somali Provisional Constitution of 2012, where it states that “A marriage shall not be legal without the free consent of both the man and the woman, or if either party has not reached the age of maturity”.

Social media users have started a petition against the bill in order to highlight its harmful nature. At the time of writing, the petition has garnered 5,300 signatures.

It is not clear when parliament will convene to discuss this bill further.

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